In 2004 I got the opportunity to hold a Samurai sword in my hand. A real one. The man who had made it was Mr. Hiromune Takaba and I had the true privilege of meeting him on the day he finished three months work forging the blade. I watched him sign it. He showed me a box of nails that he’d collected from a 750 year-old temple in Japan. He told me of his travels to Sweden to collect scrap from a car factory and to Australia in search of interesting steels. These steels all fed into the legendary process of making “Japanese Steel” (Watetsu), the starting point for forging the blade of the katana. The finest swords were made in the 13th Century, he explained. Some of the knowledge swordsmiths had back then has been lost along the way. He was experimenting with these steels to try and regain some of that knowledge and to create the perfect sword.
Seki City is the Samurai sword capital of Japan and when I visited, Mr Takaba was one of only 18 swordsmiths there. It is the culture and history of the Samurai sword that elevates kitchen knives from Seki to a league of their own. At the time, I was in Japan as ‘designer-in-residence’, using my product design skills to help a small, family owned knifemaking company create new products.
Meeting Mr. Takaba was an incredible inspiration but so was being immersed in Japanese culture as a whole. Japanese people have so much respect for their possessions – the Samurai sword demanding the ultimate respect as it can take a life. The country is an incredible mix of centuries-old traditions and futuristic technology. The people have a humble pursuit of perfection and an incredible attention to detail.
It was years later in 2011 that I decided to try and create the best production kitchen knives in the world. I knew that they had to be forged in Seki.
Back in early 2019 we were approached by Kanpai Magazine with an amazing idea. They wanted to commission illustrator Jaye Kim to immortalise the story behind the birth of TOG Knives. ‘The Road to Seki’ tells of our founder Bert’s journey to Japan during which he met Swordsmith Mr. Hiromune Takaba. The results are incredible and we are reproducing the entire article here, with kind permission from Kanpai Magazine, author Katie Dailey and illustrator Jaye Kim.